The Potential Impact of Expanded Medical Marijuana

Mar 27, 2019

Image from medpharmiowa.com
Credit MedPharm

The Iowa Legislature is looking at expanding medical marijuana in the state.  And, the potential changes pose a real concern for the Sioux City Police Department.

Sioux City Police Chief Rex Mueller
Credit Sioux City Police Department

Sioux City Police Chief Rex Mueller feels for people suffering from conditions covered by Iowa’s medical cannabis law.

“I don’t know how you can deny that from a cancer patient, that generally has cause that would merit that.”

However, Chief Mueller says medicinal marijuana often becomes a bridge for recreational use.

“So, once you open that door, it’s hard to close that door.”

“If your train of thinking is legalizing it, then we can control it.  But, you can’t control it. Because how do we label it?  How do you say that this is marijuana that you are looking at a baggy on a table?  And, this marijuana, this was made legal?  And, this one wasn’t?  Do we know what was used to grow it, pesticides?  Sometimes it can have synthetic agents in it that can be very harmful.”

“Some people think or believe that if you legalize it you can control it or regulate it.  But, I don’t necessarily think that’s true.  I think in states like Colorado you are seeing the unforeseen effects of legalization for recreational use has.”

Colorado legalized marijuana more than five-years ago.  The National Marijuana Initiative, funded by the White House’s Office of National Drug Control Policy estimates for every dollar Colorado gained in tax revenue, taxpayers spend about $4.50 mitigating the impact.

“I understand the concern by law enforcement.” But, I think it’s a little misplaced.  We should be focusing on getting patients the care and concern that they need.  And, it’s not being done for each patient right now,” said Stephen Wilson.

MedPharm Dispensaries Manager Stephen Wilson
Credit MedPharm

Stephen Wilson is the manager of dispensaries for MedPharm Iowa.  The company owns five locations across the state, including Sioux City, that opened in November of last year. 

“We have the most restrictive program in the nation.  It shows with the level of products our patients can get in the state.”

MedPharm currently serves 100 patients locally with capsules, creams, and drops.

“A majority of those coming in from Siouxland, untreatable pain or Parkinson’s, some MS, Crohn’s and AIDS patients.”

Iowa lawmakers are considering easing restrictions on who gets medical cards to buy marijuana products. If approved, health care providers could approve use for any condition they consider “medically beneficial”.  Other plans allow patients to legally possess more product and increasing the amount of THC in medical cannabis, the oil extracted from the pot plant.  The current THC level stands at 3%.

“Everyone recognizes that is something that needs to be looked at and reconsidered.”

But, not everyone agrees on the potential changes, including Captain Marti Reilly of the Sioux City Police Department, a seasoned-law officer with years of experience investigating drug crimes.

“Marijuana is an interesting drug, in the fact that the federal government says it’s illegal.  Being in law enforcement for more than 30 years.  They always said state laws can be more restrictive, but it can’t be less.  So, each state legalizing it is breaking federal law.”

Captain Marti Reilly, Sioux City Police Department
Credit Siouxland Public Media

REPORTER: “Do you think drug use has increased?”

“It sure feels like it.” 

“Marijuana being legal in Colorado and around us.”  The number of people smoking marijuana has increased a great deal.”

“Marijuana causes you to be a lazy, do nothing.

“I have been in law enforcement now since 1980, so about 39 years. Having more of a reason to escape reality doesn’t help society.  People who don’t want to deal with their problems, it doesn’t make the problem go away it, it just exuberates it and makes it worse.”

Captain Reilly also says he doesn’t buy the argument for medical marijuana.  He believes there is better treatment out there for patients.

“Marijuana legalization is a huge-profited group.  They always start finding people with children who might benefit from seizures. They are suffering a great deal. And, they’ll do anything for their children.  That’s the way the slippery slope starts is medical use.”

“What we see is a lot of people do crimes, burglaries thefts, all sort of crime for money for their drug habit and marijuana isn’t cheap.

Stephen Wilson says his company doesn’t have any plans to expand into a recreational pot market beyond helping people suffering from pain and other conditions.

“MedPharm, Iowa. We’re not concerned about recreational use at all. We want to provide the most efficient and best medical cannabis product for our patients.”

“In all industries, you’re going to have operators that don’t necessarily play by the rules.  But, our role is helping Iowa patients and will be so in the future.”

A future Sioux City Police Chief Rex Mueller hopes doesn’t include expanding marijuana-use laws.

“We hope our legislatures are making smart decisions, But, I also hope our legislature is looking at other state’s mistakes, so we can avoid those mistakes in how legalization of marijuana in our state.

“For our officers, a lot of violent crime revolves around drugs and unfortunately marijuana is one of those drugs  that is involved in violent crime.”